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Nneka Brown Helps Students Go B(l)ack to School in Style

Nneka Brown is on her way to becoming a high school history teacher, but the 27-year-old CEO, single mom and army veteran is also busy making history of her own.


By now, you probably heard all about the collection of Black-themed school supplies that sold out in 24 hours.

Innovative Supplies is the company that’s shaking up things in online retail and Nneka Brown is the woman behind it.

When caught up with Nneka Brown recently, she and her small-but-dedicated team were in the middle of shipping out more than 8,500 notebooks to customers who were anxiously awaiting their orders.

A self-proclaimed history buff, Brown says the idea came as she was gearing up for her first semester at Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga. after spending nine years in the military and being deployed overseas twice.

“I always liked back to school supplies and now that I’m going to school, I felt it was important to get the right tools that would help me throughout the semester. One of the tools would be notebooks, but when you go into the store, there’s not much to choose from,” Brown says. “So, I created a couple concepts in my mind and I had them produced and I was blown away by how good they looked. I knew this was something that other people would love as well.”

And she was right.

So many orders came pouring in that Brown had to press pause after just 24 hours.

In case you missed it: The notebooks depicted iconic Civil Rights leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., along with the #BlackLivesMatter movement featuring the late rapper Tupac Shakur rocking an “I Am Sandra Bland” T-shirt with a sprinkle of pop culture, including the hilarious Michael Jordan crying meme.

The “Be Unique” and “Higher and Higher” notebooks instantly became customer favorites, selling 4,600 units combined.


Her hardworking staff, which consists of six teens, assembles each notebook by hand. A time-consuming process, Brown started a GoFundMe page to meet the high demand. She will use the funds to purchase machines that produce the notebooks at a faster rate of 450 per hour.

“We want to be the first Black-owned school supply store that manufactures its own products so there’s no middle man,” Brown says.

Without a middle man in the picture, Brown says she can better serve and uplift her community. According to its website, Innovative Supplies will donate 40 percent of the profits from book bag sales to local charities, as well as open and deposit profits into an account with a Black-owned Citizens Trust Bank.

And Brown is serious about employing minority youth. Recently, she brought on two teen girls to handle sales and customer relations, as well as social media and shipping.

To create some of the notebook concepts, Brown partners with various artists and gives them a portion of the profits from the items that feature their designs.


In the coming months, Innovative Supplies will expand its line to offer package deals and new products, including calendars, planners and journals themed around breast cancer, Kwanzaa, Black History Month and much more.

“My purpose is to promote positive imagery within the minority community,” Brown says. “This is not a fly-by-night business; we’re going to be here for a while.”

Not bad for someone who intended on selling maybe 200 notebooks.

Brown’s favorite piece from the collection so far is the “Blk Lvs Mtr” notebook, a concept she created herself.

“This one speaks to me because of the message behind it,” she says. “I stand for Black Lives Matter and I am not afraid to say it, unlike some of the billion-dollar corporations who get billions of dollars each year from ‘Black lives,’ but speak nothing on the subject of it.”

Spoken like a true solider.

To support Innovative Supplies, visit and donate to its GoFundMe page.

Shop the entire collection at

Princess Gabbara is a Michigan-based journalist whose work has been published in several national publications, including,,, Huffington Post Women, and Sesi Magazine. Visit her site or follow her @PrincessGabbara